Category Archives: Wildfare

Botswana lifts hunting suspension

Botswana’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism announced that “the government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension.”

The country’s new president, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, recently received in Kasane for five southern African heads of state whose countries are home to roughly half the world’s remaining elephant population, with an aim to forge a common strategy for elephant conservation in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). The strategy does not explicitly mention hunting, but it paves the way for justifying it.

Under the pretext of ‘consumptive use’ – the idea that an animal will only be conserved if it is hunted or its parts are traded for cash – hunting was defended at the Kasane Conference as a silver bullet for elephant conservation. Speakers and ministers expounded myths that the world – and most African Elephant range states – have largely abandoned it.

Kitso Mokaila, Botswana’s Minister of Environment and Tourism, claimed that elephant population has surged to 160,000, from 55,000 in 1991, claiming  that there are ‘too many elephants.’

In 1983, Botswana’s elephant population numbered between 70,000 and 75,000. It had certainly not dropped to 55,000 by 1991.

The minister may have done well to consult the scientific reports of Northern Botswana, which estimates the population to be roughly 126,114. However the number doesn’t differ from the 2014 figure, indicating the population is stable, but not growing. 

A second myth: Botswana has exceeded its ‘carrying capacity’ of 54,000 elephants. This has become an expedient cover under which to justify elephant trophy hunting and even culling. The entire concept of ‘carrying capacity’ is arbitrary without relevance for vast, unfenced wilderness landscapes that adapt and maintain integrity without human intervention.

“Much of the research community, and many managers, accept that ecosystem structure and function are not about elephant numbers but instead about elephant distribution across a landscape and in relation to plant communities” scholars Phyllis Lee, Keith Lindsay and Katarzyna Nowak explain.

A large number of scientists wrote in Ambio that they did not see “any ecological reason to artificially change the number of elephants in Chobe National Park, either through culling or opening new dry season ranges.

What matters is not “carrying capacity” but dispersion and concentration. A high density of elephants in one area may prove to result in some ‘undesirable’ vegetation transformation, which is a good reason for keeping migratory corridors open without fences.

Even where apparent vegetation transformation occurs, however, the ecological benefits of keeping elephants as keystone herbivores should never be underestimated. They deposit seeds up to 90 km away from areas in which they feed, regenerating vegetation elsewhere and creating corridors for other animals to use.

A myth of hunting to solve the “population explosion problem” is ignoring that the population is stable – and potentially in decline. The truth is that hunting only decimates the big tuskers, reducing genetic diversity.

Trophy hunting is typically rationalised on the grounds that it only eliminates old bulls that are ‘surplus’ to herd requirements. Such small-scale elimination is, however, incapable of controlling an ‘exploding’ population, especially given that Botswana’s annual export quota was only ever between 420 and 800 elephants in the decade preceding the moratorium.

Moreover, there is no such thing as ‘surplus’ bull elephants. Dr Michelle Henley writes that “in the past, bulls over 50 years of age were considered redundant but more recent studies have found that bulls do not reach their sexual prime until they are over 45 years old.”

She also notes that older bulls, because they have protracted musth cycles, “often suppress the musth cycles of younger bulls, thereby maintaining social stability and lowering younger bulls’ aggression towards other species such as rhinoceros.

They are thus critical for ensuring functional herd sociology, transferring knowledge and disciplining delinquent behaviour among juvenile males.

Hunting is a fundamentally unsustainable, as the incentives are loaded in favour of over-consumption and rule-breaking.

Anyone who knows anything about hunting cannot honestly claim that a hunter, tracking a trophy bull with his client, upon finding a young bull carrying large tusks, would try to dissuade his client from shooting it”, a Botswana veteran Mike Gunn said.

Hunting quotas tend to be arbitrarily determined by the hunters themselves and over-exploited, which violates the ‘maximum sustainable yield’ principle.

Hunting will therefore never solve a population problem, but it does destroy herd sociology and ensures that big tuskers are being shot out.

In this respect, hunters are aiding the poachers – undermining, not supporting, conservation.

Bringing back hunting will solve human and elephant conflict (HEC) and increase benefits to local communities has proven to be wrong.

The fact is that hunting would only solve HEC if it were able to keep elephants within protected areas and reduce the scarcity of resources, such as water, especially during prolonged drought.

Part of the argument is that hunting generates revenue that accrues directly to local communities and thus disincentives both poaching and the killing of errant crop-raiders. Ironically, however, hunting is rooted in a colonial anthropology that castigated indigenous people groups as ‘poachers’ and colonialists as ‘hunter-conservationists’.

 

 

Uganda kidnappers demand $500,000 ransom

An American citizen who was kidnapped with her driver at Uganda’s most popular wildlife park by gunmen had failed to take an armed ranger as required by the park’s regulations, a spokesperson for the wildlife authority said.

Four armed men in Uganda‘s Queen Elizabeth National Park. according to CNN have used the victim’s phone to demand $500,000 ransom.

We strongly believe this ransom is the reason behind the kidnap,” a police officer said to CNN TV channel. They were ambushed and kidnapped near Katoke Gate between 5 pm and 7 pm on April, 2. “Other four tourists who were left abandoned and unharmed later contacted the base (lodge) and were quickly got safely out of any danger,” a press release said.

The Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) is Uganda’s most visited wildlife attraction.

Kimberley Sue Endecott (35), and Ugandan driver Jean Paul were on a game drive in the Park when four gunmen ambushed their vehicle in evening hours, police said. However, an elderly couple also at the scene were not taken and raised the alarm.

Militant groups as Somali Islamists or Congolese-based rebels operate in Uganda, but none of the group claimed responsibility for the armed incident. At present the regular crime is regarded as a privileged version of the assault.

There is ongoing police operation, however for the evident reasons, the details are not revealed.

Chinese poachers with $1 million rhino horns face justice

The seven Chinese stood before Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, magistrate Ms Rangarirai Gakanje.

They were not formally charged for contravening Section 45(1) (b) of the Parks and Wildlife Act Chapter 20:14 as read with Section 128(b) of the same Act.

The sections criminalise keeping, possessing, selling or disposing of any live specially protected animal, meat or trophy of any such animal.

The magistrate remanded the accused in custody. Prosecuting, Mr Bheki Tshabalala said the accused were found in possession of the rhino pieces.

On 22 December information was received that there were some Chinese nationals at house number 858 Aerodrome, who were suspected to be keeping rhino horns. Police applied for a search warrant and proceeded to the house on Sunday morning whereupon searching they recovered a plastic bag containing several pieces of rhino horn in one of the bedrooms used by Liu,” said Mr Tshabalala.

The prosecutor said several other pieces were found in a cardboard box and some stashed inside a mattress that had been cut for concealment. A digital scale was also recovered, the court revealed. Mr Tshabalala said the pieces weighed 20,98 kg and a veterinary surgeon confirmed that they were genuine rhino horns.

The total value of the pieces is $938 700. Mr Givemore Mvhiringi of Mvhiringi and Associates is representing the accused.

Zeng Dengui (35), Peicon Jang (35), Liu Cheng (23), Yu Xian (25), Yong Zhu (25), Chen Zhiangfu (30) and Qui Jinchang (29) were arrested following a search at their rented house in Aerodrome.

 

Mozambique ivory seized in Cambodia

Cambodian customs have seized more than three tons of elephant tusks from Mozambique following a notice from the US Embassy. The demand for ivory from China and Vietnam is a driving factor in Cambodia’s illegal wildlife trade.

The elephant tusks were hidden among marble in a container that was abandoned,” Sun Chhay, director of the Customs and Excise Office at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port, told the AFP news agency.

The official said the ivory was sent from the southern African nation of Mozambique and it arrived in Cambodia last year. He also said the owner of the shipment did not show up to collect the cargo.

Officials said the tusks were discovered after a tip-off from the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

It was unclear whether the smuggled ivory was destined for markets other than Cambodia.

 

 

 

Kenya Olympics replaced ritual lion hunting

Kenyan warriors of young generation are no longer pursuing lions to show off their hunting prowess and bravery, they are competing for monetary prizes in javelin throwing at the Maasai Olympics instead.

We have changed the outdated lion hunting culture, as there was a time before the Maasai Olympics when we were killing animals, but now we are protecting them as we coexist in harmony,” 22-year-old Moran Joseph Tipape Lekatoo said.

Lekatoo was competing for his Mbirikani Manyatta group in the fourth edition of the Maasai Olympics, where youthful morans, or warriors, from four Manyattas (settlements) — Rombo, Mbirikani, Kuku and Elselengei — gather to compete.

If you compare me to the past warriors, they used to go and kill lions and that does not help you in anyway,” said Moses Ntimama, another warrior and participant in the Olympics at the Sidai Oleng Wildlife Sanctuary at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, near Kenya’s border with Tanzania.

Government-run Kenya Wildlife Services informs there are about 2,000 lions in the East African country, and the biggest threat to them and other carnivores is conflict with humans.

 

 

Vietnam poachers killed more than 40 lions

Eight Vietnamese suspects will appear before a South African court to face charges of illegal possession of game products including lion parts and a tiger’s carcass, police said.

Police agents found lion bones, lion meat, a tiger skin, gas cylinders, gas burners, containers, a saw, knives and other equipment when they intercepted the suspects’ two vehicles headed to an unused farm in the North West province.

“As far as how many (lions), from our side there’s been no definite number really… but its quite a few of them,” Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso told AFP.

There were different parts of the lion that were there… so you can’t exactly tell if its the stomach or whatever, but the lion in its entirety was chopped up basically.”

Local media reports at least 40 lions were killed in 48 hours.

Conservation groups in East and southern Africa say that during the past three years, increasing numbers of lions have been killed and mutilated for their claws and teeth, likely to satisfy demand in China and Southeast Asia, where the parts appear to mainly be used as pendants and amulets.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates the global wildlife trade, prohibits commercial trade in the parts of wild African lions. But South Africa, which has thousands of captive-bred lions, can legally export their parts—up to 800 lion skeletons a year. According to CITES, most go to Laos and Vietnam, where the bones are used as a substitute for tiger bone wine, considered a status symbol and used for treating various ailments and giving the drinker the “strength of a tiger.”

Ten rhinos in Kenya died after transfer

Kenya’s wildlife minister apologized for being rude with  his critics, and  sending them to “hell” while he  comes under mounting pressure over the death of 10 rhinos during a botched transfer.

Tourism and Wildlife Minister Najib Balala had directed the comments to those calling for his resignation over the fiasco during a press conference:

“People need explanations about the rhinos… people are angry. I am also angry,” Balala told. “I have emotions and I reacted. I feel let down by my system that did not act quickly to stop the death of the rhinos.”

Kenyans have been outraged after 10 of 11 rhinos being transferred from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru national parks to Tsavo East died after the operation.

The 11th was attacked by lions, and is recovering.

Balala has blamed Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) officials involved in the transfer for “negligence”, suspending six senior officials.

An initial enquiry indicated that the rhinos may have become dehydrated and died after drinking saline water in their new habitat.

The scandal intensified when the former chairman of the KWS board, the world-renowned anthropologist Richard Leakey, released a statement revealing that the board had on three prior occasions blocked the transfer.

He said this was due to “a deep concern about the lack of vegetation in the sanctuary that could sustain rhino, and also, the real issue of available and safe water.”

He also indicated that no new KWS board had been set up in the three months since the one he chaired expired, leaving the decision to carry out the translocation entirely up to Balala’s ministry.

The indignant Kenyans demanded via social media to see the horns of the dead rhinos, KWS displayed the 20 horns to the media last week to allay suspicions.

In yet another blow to the country’s rhino population, the KWS said that a 12-year-old male had been killed by poachers for its horn in Nakuru National Park this week.

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